>The Great War touched everyone in London. The men went to war, became injured, died, or came home with internal emotional damage that no one could see. The families left behind suffered along with their beloved soldiers.
In The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon, Evelyn Gifford is a free-spirited young woman in a London that doesn’t know what to do with a forward thinking female. Trained as a lawyer, she successfully finds herself a position with a free-spirited firm, where she advocates well for her clients even as the judges hold back their respect because of her gender. Evelyn assists in the case of defending an accused murderer – one who had come home from the war depressed, yet a dependable and caring husband. On a weekend picnic his wife disappears, only to be found shot to death. The war-damaged widower must have killed her, or so the public thinks. Evelyn is determined to prove otherwise.
Meanwhile, Evelyn grieves for her own older brother James, killed in the war. She idolized him in life and continues to hold his angelic image in her head and heart. When a young battlefield nurse turns up on the doorstep with a young boy, James’ son, Evelyn and her family are at a loss.
The complex plots and subplots wind together for a story suspenseful, surprising, and sensual. Evelyn’s visits to avant-garde London society with her brother’s lover are almost too colorful for her shades-of-gray family. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother continue to disapprove of her career even while they depend on her income to pay their bills. The presence of their new family member and his mother bring back memories of the deceased James, but also bring tarnish to his perfect image.
The Crimson Rooms is a page-turner. It was difficult to put down; the dark moods and increasingly complex plot twists kept me rooting for Evelyn even as I wondered how much more she could realistically handle. Readers will admire her strength and still want to help heal the pain caused by the war and its aftermath, the travails of making her way into the men’s world of London’s courts.
Reading The Crimson Rooms encouraged me to look for more of Katharine McMahon’s work. She has also written The Rose of Sebastopol and The Alchemist’s Daughter. The Crimson Rooms will be available on February 8 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound online. Please looks for it at your local booksellers, too.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Riverhead and received a copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. The book is an advanced reader copy; I will pass it on to friends and family so that others can enjoy the fascinating and well-written story.